It's been awhile since the last time I wrote. There's a phrase in Israel, "acharei chagim". Everything happens after the holidays. Now that the holidays are over - since last I wrote, we celebrated Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah - and I've gotten back into the routine of being in school from 8:30-5, things are a little less crazy. It very much still feels like summer here (will be in the 90s over the weekend!), but there have been a few rain showers - the weather is definitely messing with my internal clock; it hasn't really clicked that it's halfway through October already.
Pomegranates and Mangos and Wineries, oh my!
I had a whole week and a half off from school - the longest time I've had off (or taken off) since just after graduation. For the first part, before Sukkot started, I traveled up north to the Galil with Naomi, Laura, Lauren, and Evelyn. We rented a car, stayed on a beautiful moshav near the Sea of Galilee, ate delicious food, sang songs by candlelight on our porch at night, and went hiking in a river. The moshav had an incredible view of the Galil, and there were some of the best, juiciest, locally-grown mangos I've ever had. The son of the hostel owner, Dan, had shown us the hiking trail, and said we could call if we had any problems. After hiking through the river for 4 hours (a hike we had been told would take 2 hours), we're pretty much done with the wading/swimming. We give Dan a call, and instead of giving us directions back to our car, comes and picks us up in his dusty pick-up truck (complete with 2 Thai workers in the back), and brings us freshly picked pomegranates. As we bump through his pomegranate, mango, and lichee fields, Dan shares with us his view of Israeli society - "the problem with Israel isn't the Arabs, it's the Israelis." This conversation was sparked by the overflowing dumpsters and polluted campsites that we saw, remnants of the 2 previous holiday weekends. It's so easy to here to get completely bogged down with trying to comprehend/solve/deal with/challenge status quo around Israeli-Palestinian issues and to forget that this country, like any other, has a plethora of other socio-economic challenges. After our pick-up truck ride with Dan, we piled back into our acceleration-challenged (great for the mountains up north, really) rental car and went to the Golan Winery, for a classy wine tasting in our damp and dirty hiking clothes.
the view of the Kinneret from Moshav Almagor
It was incredibly refreshing to be out of Jerusalem for 3 days. As we were sitting in traffic in the city on the first day, trying to get out, we all just wanted to be out of the city already. It's a great city, and I am loving living here, but I never really understood when friends who had lived in Jerusalem told me that it is an intense city, and it is hard to live in. It's not always tangible, and I didn't notice it on previous trips when I was visiting...but it was great to be up north, out of the Anglo-bubble of South Jerusalem (where I live and go to school), and breathe some fresh air and speak some Hebrew. And it was also great to come back, and to come home to Jerusalem, and to come home to my apartment after being away for the first time since I moved in.
V'samachta b'chagecha - and you will rejoice in your holiday!
Sukkot in Jerusalem was pretty special. Before we left to go up north, Evelyn, Lauren and I ventured to the shuk arba'ah minim, the 4 species market, to buy our lulavs and our etrogs for the holiday. We built a sukkah on our porch - very cozy, Esti and I had a super cute movie night in it one night over vacation. There were sukkot ALL OVER the city - every restaurant, many homes and apartments - for more about Sukkot in Israel that feels very similar to my experience, read this post from 10 Minutes of Torah. My class had a bagel brunch in the sukkah on Pardes' roof during vacation, and Evelyn gave a d'var Torah that really resonated. A lot of the time we talk about going into the sukkah, this temporary, unstable structure outside of our homes, as a time that reminds us of our vulnerability. In times like these, surrounded by the impact of the economic crisis hurting ourselves, our families, and our communities, we already feel pretty vulnerable. There's another interpretation (and I apologize for not knowing where Evelyn found it), that the sukkah, with its 2-3 walls is like a hug. Hugs are comforting, and remind us that there is hope and support in the world, but they do not make everything better, just the confidence that one day, they will be better.
the sukkah at 2/10 Shneur Peleg!
Haifa, Haifa, Ir im Tachtit, Haifa, Haifa, ir amiti...
Haifa Haifa, a city with a subway, Haifa Haifa, a real city! (~David Broza)
Towards the end of vacation I spent a few days in Haifa with Orly. There are street festivals everywhere in Israel during Sukkot, and we went to a pretty loud one (with some delicious fried street food), and then wandered up towards the Haifa International Film Festival, where there was yet another street fair. We did lots of very touristy things, including the clandestine immigration museum (MUCH more fun than anticipated, especially when reading the particularly awful English exhibit explanations) and took a cable car up the mountain, just for the fun of it. I also got to see Joan and Joyce from Shir Tikva, who were in Haifa for the film festival!
Orly and I at the clandestine immigration and naval museum
the view of the Mediterranean from the cable car
V'samachta b'chagecha II
Friday night was yet another holiday, Simchat Torah. I went to Kol Haneshama, or as I like to call it, everybody's favorite Progressive Anglo synagogue in South Jerusalem. It was awesome. Lots of energy and spirit and dancing, ran into lots of people I know who I hadn't yet had the chance to see here. For the last hakafah, they did this beautiful custom I had never seen before - we all formed one circle, outside in the courtyard (rather than the small circles and dancing that had been happening up until then), and the Torah scrolls made the hakafah, went around the circle, instead of us. It was really nice to end on a quiet and reflective note, instead of dancing like crazy right up until the end. The next morning I went to another set of hakafot at Kedem, an egalitarian minyan with lots of Anglo students, and the last hakafah was for all those in the room working for peace. Most of the room hesitated, very few people immediately identified themselves as being peaceworkers. It's hard, especially since it is a primarily student community - I study fulltime now, I'm not directly working for the world-as-it-should-be, and it is a struggle I wrestle with every day, along with many of my friends and classmates.
Garbage garbage garbage!
On Sunday the Pardes social justice track traveled to Har Hiriya, a giant landfill outside of Tel Aviv, in the (slow) process of being converted to a giant park and environmental education center. It's literally a mountain (har=mountain) of trash that was built up from the 1950s until about 10 years ago. It's still used as a transfer station for trash - a lot of trash. We went the day after Sukkot ended, and the amount of debris (especially plant material) from the holiday was ridiculous, as was the amount of recyclable materials. The whole scene was very Wall-E-esque (a great movie, one that I first watched all the way through with Hilary A. Spear) - trash being compacted into bricks, trucks pushing through and sorting it. It was fascinating to be at this garbage dump, to see a side of Israel that I've definitely seen, that tourists don't see, and probably many residents don't see it either (definitely not a side of the US that I've seen).
garbage trucks from Tel Aviv and its surroundings dumping the day's trash